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With Change All Around, Colts' Defense Delivers As Usual Against Raiders

In a season marked by frequent change, the one constant for the Indianapolis Colts in 2022 has been the team’s defense. That unit came to play once again in Sunday’s Week 10 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, shutting the door on a potential game-winning drive to give Indy its fourth win of the year.

(AP Photo/David Becker)
(AP Photo/David Becker)

To put it simply, the Indianapolis Colts have already undergone quite a few notable changes throughout the 2022 season.

Most of those changes, however, have come on the offensive side of the ball, as evidenced by the team's Week 10 road matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Colts on Sunday had a brand new offensive playcaller in pass game specialist and assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier, and a new interim head coach in Jeff Saturday, who adds perspective as one of the greatest offensive linemen in franchise history. The team also turned back to veteran Matt Ryan as its starting quarterback after giving second-year signal caller Sam Ehlinger a shot to run the offense for a couple games.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's unit, meanwhile, has mostly stuck to a consistent, high-performing brand of football. Despite the fact the Colts have been without All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard for most of the season, Indy headed into Sunday's game ranked fifth in the NFL in total defense, anchored by the league's second-best rushing defense.

The Raiders game proved to be just another solid performance by the Colts' defense, which allowed just 309 total yards, and an average of just 3.2 yards per carry, but also came up huge in the clutch to thwart a potential game-winning drive by the Raiders, as Indy flew home with a 25-20 win to snap a three-game losing streak.

"We needed it," Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore said of Sunday's win. "We know we had a lot of changes this past week, we knew Vegas had a good football team — a talented football team — and we just kept fighting. All three phases played a big role into the win. I'm just happy we got a win against a great team."

The Colts' defense was particularly stingy in the first half of Sunday's game, as it limited Las Vegas to just 122 total net yards and a 1-of-6 (17 percent) conversion rate on third down.

The Raiders would start to figure it out a bit from there, however, as the third and fourth quarters were an entertaining back-and-forth affair. Eventually, however, Colts quarterback Matt Ryan connected with wide receiver Parris Campbell for a 35-yard touchdown catch with 5:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, giving Indy that decisive five-point lead.

Quarterback Derek Carr and the Las Vegas offense subsequently marched right down the field, though, and broke into the red zone at the Indy 19-yard line with relative ease, thanks to a 16-yard reception by Davante Adams. The Raiders crept even closer with a three-yard run by Josh Jacobs to get them to the 16-yard line with about a minute remaining.

Facing a 3rd and 7, Carr zipped a pass to the end zone to his tight end Foster Moreau, who had hauled in a touchdown grab earlier in the contest. It appeared Moreau was about to haul in touchdown reception No. 2 on the day — this time for a game winner — before linebacker Bobby Okereke was able to knock the ball out of his grasp at the last second.

Okereke, who was voted Pro Football Focus’ Week 9 Defensive Player of the Week for a standout performance last Sunday against the New England Patriots, continues his strong 2022 campaign.

"Man, Bobby's a warrior," said fellow linebacker Zaire Franklin, who had a game-high-tying 10 tackles Sunday against the Raiders. "I tell him all the time, I love going to war with him."

Facing 4th and 7 from the Indy 16-yard line, Carr elected to go to his top target rather than try to move the chains and get a fresh set of downs inside the 10-yard line. The veteran quarterback, off his back foot, lofted a fade to the left side of the end zone towards Adams, who was locked into one-on-one coverage against Gilmore.

Adams seemed to have a step on Gilmore early, but the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year recovered quickly to get a hand up and knock the pass down to the grass.

Game over.

"Yeah, Gus made a great call," Gilmore recalled of that fateful play. "He sent the house, and I knew it was one-on-one backside with me and (Adams). I knew he was going to go to his best player, and I like being in that position because it allows me to make a play to help our team win. But I take myself each and every week. With the game on the line, I like myself."

"We're still here," Gilmore said of what Sunday's win means for the Colts, despite all the changes. "We've got a great team; we've just got to keep clicking. We've got to keep going 1-0 each and every week. And these guys work hard every day. I like my teammates, the coaches put us in great position to make plays, so I'm just excited for the future."

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